Endarterectomy is the general term for the surgical removal of plaque from an artery that has become narrowed or blocked. Your arteries are normally smooth and unobstructed on the inside but they can become blocked through a process called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. As you age, a sticky substance called plaque can build up in the walls of your arteries. As more plaque builds up, your arteries narrow and stiffen. Eventually your blood vessels can no longer supply the oxygen demands of your organs or muscles and symptoms may develop.
To perform an endarterectomy, an incision is made in the affected artery and the plaque contained in the artery's inner lining is removed. This procedure leaves a wide-open artery and restores blood flow. Occasionally, endarterectomy is used in conjunction with other procedures, such as bypass or patching (widening), to open the artery and keep it open. Physicians use endarterectomy to treat many arteries. Your physician may recommend endarterectomy to treat carotid artery disease or peripheral vascular disease.